Have you ever stood at a crossroads?
Today’s gospel reading describes just such a moment for Jesus, and for us.
It comes at a crucial point in Jesus’ life according to John’s gospel, and marks a turning point in his ministry….the end of the public teaching and healing time, and the beginning of the inexorable movement forward into darkness, and death on a cross.….no longer is he a local wandering preacher sent only to the house of Israel to be their awaited messiah.
That it’s a crucial crossroads text is heightened by the fact that it begins with some foreigners, non Jews, wanting to meet Jesus, whose impact is evidently spreading, and ends with drawing “all people”—a literary bracketing that often is used to highlight what comes between.
It’s a crossroads for Jesus—he doesn’t say, Wonderful, bring ‘em in.That would be the likeliest response from earlier in his life – remember, let the children come?
No, he sees the bigger meaning in this inquiry…this thing he and God have got going is getting bigger than maybe even he ever thought, and he realizes, Now is the big moment. Now is the time for decision. Now the hour has come. Now is the crossroads.
And he shares a gardening image with his listeners…a seed can either be just a seed, or it can be a fruitful plant or tree. It’s as if he invites us into his soul’s wondering. If he wants to be faithful to his covenant, written on his heart with God, and if he wants to bring about all God wants for the world, he has to move forward. And moving forward through the crossroads means death. He can’t stay the same; he’s going to die.
It’s a crossroads for us who say we’re Christians too—will I be a Jesus follower, wherever it takes me? It probably won’t be crucifixion, but it will mean a complete identification with him 24-7. Will I look inside and see what needs to die in my life to move across the crossroads?
What tiny thing, given up, would bring life instead?
What resentment, let go, would bring life to your shriveled soul?
What forgiveness offered would free a relationship?
Or will I remain an observer, an outsider, one who just wants to meet Jesus informally but not transformationally.
There’s an old wisdom story from another tradition about a distressed person who comes to a holy teacher for help.
Do you really want to be cured?
Of course, I wouldn’t be here otherwise. Nobody would come if they didn’t want that.
Yes, they would, and do, said the holy one, all the time.
Then why do they come?
Not for a cure; that’s painful. They come for relief.
Crossroads. This text makes it clear that decisions to move forward with and for God, involve real inner struggle. “This troubles my soul” says Jesus. You can hear the anguish.
Jesus invites us deeper into that struggle: should I ask to be relieved of this? Or should I go on, knowing it points beyond me to God? Isn’t there another way? his anguished heart asks.
The writer reminds us that such prayers, such inner encounters with the Holy One are dialogue; God hears and responds. Not everyone’s ears are tuned in, some are still at the relief stage, so they don’t get it, but that doesn’t stop Jesus.
Now, he says again. Now is the moment of judgment, diagnosis John called it last week. The cross-roads calls for a decision.
For him and for us.
He says, WHEN I am lifted up, not IF—his decision is made. He steps through the crossroads towards death.
But there’s a play on words here. Raised up literally on the cross also means, especially in the gospel of John, raised up in life…..resurrection. Life, not death, wins.
His dying made the powers that be think they’d won, and the powers of the world still think that violence is the right way to win. Listen to this from the weekend Wall Street Journal I read yesterday—in an article about an alternative way to deal with combat veterans who’ve been convicted of crimes :A generation of veterans is stumbling out of the chaos of war into the chaos of the civilian world. They’re moving from a highly disciplined environment where violence is normal to an unstructured environment where violence is prohibited. Many find it is the peace they can’t handle.
What are we thinking? what are we doing?
But really, the violence, crucifixion or warfare, then or now, all it does is expose human sickness. Crossroads. Judgment. Diagnosis.
The Love it took Jesus to step through the cross-roads is attractive enough to draw people, all people, all manner of people, people in all kinds of states.
Our affirmation about nothing separating us from this Love led me this week to write in my journal:
I want that kind of love. I want to show and live that kind of love. But first I must be open enough to believe and receive that kind of Love.
And Love didn’t stop there…love doesn’t die, no matter the worst we can do to it. Love can’t be stopped by raising up a crude ugly cross; love keeps going by raising up life.
Now. Now we stand at a crossroads. Judgment. Diagnosis. Now we decide, again, if we will go the Jesus way, follow him through the cross roads, believe INTO him as John said last week by living life his way, sharing the interior life with God and one another, with all its struggles, dying to that which does violence, that which hurts rather than heals, rising to a new transformative life.
God spoke a new covenant with us, for our whole beings.
Humanity, we, said no thanks; that’s too hard.
God spoke another new word in Jesus.
Humanity, we, said yes please to his healing and relief, but no to his life power.
God spoke again with resurrection.
Now. At the crossroads. What will be our reply?